Driving To Work

Like many of you, I have a fairly stressful job at work. I’ve adapted quite well through the years, but until the retirement gong sounds over my head, I’m in it for the long haul.

I have a wonderfully relaxing ride to and from work. I’ve talked about it before — a wonderfully windey road that passes churches and fields and cows. It’s my saving grace.

But I have to laugh — it’s like there’s two different people driving my car.

In the morning the ride is bright and sweet and (depending on how awake I am) cheery. I call my morning ride my “Church Ride.” I make peace with the world; I plan wardrobe changes and meals I want to cook and visits with the grandkids and writing on my novel when I get home. I don’t listen to the news or music on my way in — just the open window and the birds and the magic of the future.

Driving home, there’s a different person behind the wheel.  This drive is what I call the “Crypt Ride.” Usually I’m fairly grumpy and non-communicative, accompanied by a headache, I’m defusing from the day while try not to zone out at the now-blah scenery on both sides of the road. I keep thinking about all the things I didn’t get done that day and that since my hubby is working nights I won’t see him and the dogs will drive me crazy and gone are the aspirations of sewing beads on a blouse and writing — what’s that? All I can think about is going home and plopping on the sofa and turning the mindless TV on.

What happened?

Once I get home and settled I often walk out the door with my commuting hubby and continue on my evening walk. That helps clear what crummy debris is still left in the crevices of my brain. When I get back inside I manage to do one project before sitting down and kicking back.

But that doesn’t justify the complete meltdown an hour before.

I tend to blame my out-of-sync circadian rhythm for most of my highs and grumps. I have a terrible time falling asleep early — I can stay up until 1 or 2 am.  So I tend to love the night. I love the coolness and the quiet and my creative Muse eventually drops by. The problem is I have to get up at 5:45 am, and 4-1/2 hours sleep is no way to live your life.

But being crabby during your free time is not way to live your life, either.

I know the best remedy is to not let work get to you. But sometimes circumstances are beyond your control. At least from 7:30-4:00. But at 4:01 there needs to be a cosmic, miraculous yet natural transition back to “Me Time.” A totally wrapped around inside-out transformation.

Or at least a light mood swing.

I think part of me is unconsciously thinking about that big “R” in a couple of years, and all the things I can and will do once I don’t have to punch a time clock. But until then, I need to find a way to trade “Crypt Time” to “Church Time.”

After all, life’s too short to let the day’s drudgery creep into my favorite activity of the day….errr…evening.

Power watching Game of Thrones.

 

 

 

 

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Finding Dorothy’s Shoes

Ruby-slippers-wizard-of-ozI absolutely love when comments on one blog flow into thoughts and inspiration on another. That’s why I love following the writers I do.

In her blog, A Journey Called Life, (https://architar.wordpress.com), my friend Archita wrote a story called “A note from the evening” (https://architar.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/a-note-from-the-evening/). It is a first-person narrative to someone  — a friend, it seems — to that friend’s ego. To that friend’s mind. It has to be to their unconscious mind, for the conscious mind was not listening.

Her short tale explains all the motions and routines the narrator will do for the friend who never stops complaining. For the complaining is nothing new. The friend cannot see past her stubbornness to change her direction in life; the friend who insists the narrator has the banquet and the friend barely the leftovers.

It made me think and then think again. First I wondered if the friend was (figuartively) me…me in other situations. We all have the tendency to whine — life is never the bed of roses we dream of. But I hoped — still hope — that I have found a way out of that tedious state of blaming the world for some of my own bad decisions.

The more I thought, the more I realized that I have friends like that, too. I think we all do. People who just can’t get out of the whirlpool. People who don’t really want to get out of the whirlpool. That it’s easier to complain and point fingers than to do something about the situation.

Many situations are hard. There is no denying this. Life is hard. But life is also good. There is proof of that all around us.

You will continue your story- about children, about how busy you really are, about how you never had any help, about how only death can bring you your peace. Then you will ask me if I watched your favorite show on TV.

I often wonder how people get out of the whirlpools they swim in. It takes determination. It takes work. My dad and father-in-law both gave up smoking after 50 years of two packs a day. That wasn’t a walk through the roses, believe me. My friend is going back to school to get her childhood education degree, and she is in her mid-50s. Another friend has had multiple operations on knees and shoulders and had cancer in his pancreas and still manages to go camping with us a couple times a year.

Who is to decide what is too heavy a burden to bear? Who is to decide what is enough help?

Let me tell you, death looks terrible on poems. Death looks more terrible when it’s just news. Death never gives peace. Life is peace. In living, in grief, in celebrating, in friendships- you find what death lacks- a life.

Archita and I bantered back and forth in the comment section about when it’s time to listen, when it’s time to intervene, when it’s time to walk away.  It’s not easy to know the difference between being a friend, a sounding board, and an enabler. From drinking to being unemployed to being divorced, the path out of the darkness isn’t an easy one to find. But I believe we all have that inner knowledge that lets us know where to draw the line between all of the above.

I suggested she suggest the magic release of Creativity to her friend. I  know so many who have turned to the Arts to save their souls, to release their souls, to find their souls. That’s why I encourage it so much. It doesn’t matter if you crochet or make scrapbooks or write poetry. Your love for artistic freedom makes you better and better. A better artist, a better person, a better friend. Archita found her own soul again through creativity — she only hoped her friend could, too.

But that’s another story.

Do go and read Archita’s blog if you find time. You might find yourself in her shoes. Which, in the end,  just might be Dorothy’s shoes.

Sleep and Cats and Dogs — Oh My!

eyesIt was a beautiful Summer morning. Cool breeze, bright sunshine, quiet countryside. I take the backroads to work; little if any traffic, cornfields and open fields and barns and houses on hills in the distance. Calming. Nourishing.

So I’m driving to work and I ZOOM! around this cute little ruby red car (must have been a Chrysler…great paint color), saying to myself (and them through the ethereal)…if I didn’t have to get to work on time, I’d be you.

Moving at the speed of light isn’t my thing. If you know me at all, you know it takes a lot to get me zinging at all. I’m usually not late for work — but I usually have more than 2 hours of sleep, too.

Clicking off on my fingers the reasons I might have insomnia (husband gets home at 3:30am; ; overworked at work; cats and dogs sleeping in the bed)…What?? Cats and Dogs sleeping in the bed?!?

As I get older I find that I’m really not as much a cat or dog person as I once was. Sure, they’re cute. Sure, they’re loving and affectionate and independent. They are also a pain in the butt at night.  Can’t leave the dogs (3) out to wander through the house because they’ll knock down the babygates in the kitchen and eat whatever is on the counter. Can’t leave the dogs out to wander at night because they will bark like idiots at 3:30 a.m. and wake up the kindergardener (and you don’t want a kindergardener up and crabby at 4 in the morning). Cat’s barred at the door will meow relentlessly every 15 minutes until you let them into the bedroom because, hey — they want to cuddle.

It would be one thing if the cats would just find a place at the bottom of the bed and just sleep. But, like most cats, one has to climb up by my neck, lay on my shoulder, put her arm around my neck, lick my face (ewww) every now and then, and not allow me to turn over without turning the world upside down.

I have no room in a king-sized bed.

I’m not a pet-on-the-bed kinda girl. It’s just become easier than waking up every hour or two because someone is in the garbage or meowing their heads off or scratching at the door or watching TV.

Looking back on that little ruby car, they were just meandering along the road, taking their time, breathing in the fresh air and quiet countryside. (At least that seems like what they were doing). There were no (obvious) deadlines, bosses upset, burned-out co-workers, or garbage picking dogs in their vicinity. Just them…and the morning…and driving 25 mph.

There’s no need telling you that stress is the hellion of the millenium. You used to be able to work 40 years someplace and get a gold watch for your time. Now you’re doing the work of two people, getting barely paid for one, and praying downsizing goes to the next company over. We push ourselves way too hard — and can’t help it. It’s move forward or move out.

I’m tired of working that hard. I’m tired of worrying if I’ll get my work done on time or if I’ll learn the newest version of some program. And the older I get, the more ridiculous the whole working world seems.

Believe me — I appreciate Technology. Agriculture. Science. But I keep thinking we’re paying an awful high price for the privilege. You don’t have a choice. You want TV: you have to work. You want to buy groceries: you have to work. You want to buy your grandbaby a birthday gift: you have to work.

America is such a hurry-up culture. Do it now, do it fast, move on over if you can’t handle it. As much as I preach a “stop and smell the roses” kind of life, it’s not always  feasible. Not when someone is on your tail pushing you faster and faster.

It’s hard to find the middle ground. The middle ground between sleeping in and sleeping at all. Between mowing your lawn and sitting in a chair on it. Keeping pets and living with pets. But we all have to do it if we are to keep our sanity.

Which brings me back to my original thought. Cats and dogs on the bed. Mass hysteria — or mass sleep hypnosis?

Maybe I’ll start eyeballing the comfy sofa downstairs.

 

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It’s All About Me…Isn’t It??

stressI will probably wait a few days before I publish this blog, because I don’t want to send too many blogs out a week, filling up mailboxes and facebooks with more personal dribble. After all, it’s invading your personal space, and you might not like me for it.

That’s the stress talking.

My husband came home from his 2nd shift job and woke me up at 4 a.m., asking if I was okay. It seems the knob on the stove wasn’t turned off all the way and the house was filled with gas fumes.

This is me talking through the stress.

I always thought the older I got, the less I’d care about things that upset me. That I could truly not give a $hiT about things that plague my every day existence.

That hasn’t happened.

I seem to be taking more and more things personally. I wasn’t near the stove yesterday except to take rice from the pot. I was second in line, delayed by at least 10 minutes because I was on the phone. But I was stressed because I thought I “might” have been the one who didn’t turn the handle all the way vertical. And stress, being what it is, told me that my husband and kids might start thinking I’m getting senile.

I’m training a newbee at work, and I’m upset because I’m training him on something I’ve never quite worked on, and his desktop shortcuts are different from my shortcuts, and my Photoshop froze up mid-demonstration, plus  I’m slow in getting the hang of learning something new. And stress, being what it is, told me that I might lose my job or get reprimanded or not get a raise because of my dilemmas.

We are paying off medical bills as steadily as we can, and have worked with doctors and hospitals and told them we can’t afford “their” payment plan. We send in a goodly chunk of money every month, yet they still like to call and remind me of how much money I owe. And stress, being what it is, told me that I could go to jail or get in trouble for not paying off thousands of dollars of bills right away.

My wonderful daughter-in-law is spending Friday morning at my house, waiting for her husband to get off of work so they can follow us on a weekend escape, and I feel I have to spend 4 hours just cleaning my kitchen so she doesn’t get ptomaine poisoning. And stress, being what it is, tells me that she might not like me anymore if she has to spend four hours in my messy house.

Why am I so screwed up about these things?

I know I should save the stress for big things…Lord we know we all go through them. Jobs, families, and illnesses are all sources of stress. But lately I feel like I’m taking the blame for everything, leading to higher cholesterol, sleepless nights, heartburn, and worse. I’ve been told to let it go — you can only do so much, you can’t change others, do your best. Blah blah. After all, it’s not my fault if a computer program freezes or someone else is late for something I want to go to. Don’t sweat the small stuff, they say. Smell the roses. Get some fresh air and clear your head. Don’t take it so personally.

But I do. All of it.

I’m already taking something to keep the door closed on an all-out anxiety attack. Still I have to stop my mind from wandering and wondering about stupid things that have nothing to do with my reality yet really stress me out, like: what would it be like to be tortured? What would it feel like to be mangled in a car accident? What if I anger somebody and they come back and turn postal on me?

It’s like I have something to do with all the bumbles of the world. Like if only I were smarter or quicker or more graceful I could avoid most of the faux pauxs that happen around me. I don’t move as quickly or as calculatedly as I used to. 61 is not 31. But that doesn’t mean I’m one step away from senility, either. Who is thinking I’m getting senile? No one  but me.

Yet I continue to second guess everything I wear, everything I do. I don’t work efficiently enough, I don’t clean my house well enough, I don’t learn fast enough. I’m not sure what “enough” is, but I’m sure someone somewhere down the line thinks that. I should have enough time to work and fill the dishwasher and visit my grandson and grocery shop. I should be able to remember codes and go to bed on time and cook great meals and go for walks.

But I don’t.

And that stresses me out even more.

I doubt if  I’ll go to jail because I’ve made up my own payment plans, or never have my grandbaby over because I have dust bunnies peeking out from beneath my couch.  I doubt one negative remark will terminate my friendships, or that leaving dirty dishes in the sink will make it into the local newspaper. I will still be the same person I was yesterday, which, in the grand circle of things, isn’t a bad thing.

I’ve got to find a way to not take the world personally. It certainly doesn’t take me personally. I’ve got to find a way to let go of a lifetime of self-doubt and self-judgement.

But now I’m going to stress out about how to do that.

 

Check Your Stress At The Door

teacherWashing my hands in the company washroom the other day, I was listening to two women talk about the most over-used word/topic I’ve heard lately — stress. They were talking about being “stressed” at their job. Fortunately, they parted on a laugh and a “tomorrow’s another day.”

These days everyone is “stressed.”

It’s your job — you are expected to do everything while someone else does nothing. It’s your kids — once out of sight, you have no idea what trouble they’re getting into. It’s your family — your brother/mother/sister/grandmother is out of control again (probably the me-me-me thing). It’s your health — cholesterol is off the charts, need to lose at least 15 pounds.  It’s your age — I’m too old to do this, I’m not old enough to do that. It’s everything around us. Everything inside of us. It’s as common as salt on French fries.

Were human beings always this messed up?

I admit I am one of the first in line to succumb to this dreaded disease. I’m older, I’m heavier, I’m poorer than I was 20 years ago. I have a hard time sitting still staring at a computer screen all day. I have lost a couple of loved ones recently which broke my heart. I have had other close ones have surgery, lose their jobs, crash their SUV. I get tired of everyone else stirring up hornet’s nests and not doing a thing about it. It’s a mess out there.

How did we get this way?

Life has always been life. Kids have always been a handful, family members too. Jobs have been hard, paychecks small. People we know have been dying since we were little. People have never had enough free time, and appliances and cars have always fallen apart at the same time. But our lives have balanced out, too (at least most of the time). We love our family. We have a job. We can afford cable. We can walk through parks and snowbanks and feel the sun on our face and play in the rain. We have quit smoking or picked up a hobby or made new friends. Yet these positive things still don’t make a dent in our over-reacting to the world.

Were our parents this wound up all the time? Our grandparents?

I am not making light of stress…on the contrary, I’m worried about it. Talking to others, there is not enough time in the day (or night) to do what we need to do. No less what we want to do. Companies are downsizing, so a lot of us are doing the job of two or three people. The cost of gas and food is rising a whole lot faster than our yearly cost-of-living raise (if we get one). The cost of healthcare in one form or another is out of control, as one visit to the doctor’s office can cost us a week’s pay. We are paying for car repairs and mortgages and fixing aging appliances and paying doctor bills all from the same paycheck.

No wonder we are stressed.

I worry about this because, the older I get, the less roses I get to smell. I have at least another 20 years of spoiling my grandbaby and trying to grow a garden and I still want to go to Ireland and Italy. And every ounce of stress — I mean the really mean stress — takes me one step backwards from where I want to go.

We can’t get back yesterday, but we can work on getting to the future.  And to get there we have to get rid of this over-used condition. And the catch is, we can’t get “stressed” about it, either. How do we do such a monumental turnabout? Here are my simple ideas.

* Get a whiff of fresh air every day. No matter if it’s frigid, humid, scorching, or grey as flannel. Get out and inhale, deep and long, every day.

* Talk to someone you love every day. Not just like trains passing in the night — like real people. Ask them how they’re feeling. What made them laugh today. That you’re glad they’re in your life.

*Remember that, for most of us, a job is just a means to an end. Some of us enjoy our jobs, some of us don’t. Some of us will make a career out of our choices, some of will just make it a job. Don’t get involved in scenarios you can’t change. Some things are just above your pay grade. Do you best but don’t bring it home with you. It’s just not worth it.

* There will never be another you. Savor that fact. Learn to hone that self into one that rolls with the punches. You have to. You can’t stop the river flowing, you can’t walk to the moon, etc., etc., etc. Be true to yourself, and flourish within that light.

* Make time for the little things. Watch the sunset, play fetch with your dog. Watch an old movie. Know that the little pleasures are all that matter — that sometimes that’s all you’ll get. And mountains can be made out of those molehills.

We can’t really wash all the stress out of the world. But I truly believe that if we all make an effort we can make it less of a stain and more of a blush. Deal with what you can, let go of the rest.

Your heart, your blood pressure, will thank you.